"Sexual Rights" Officially Recognized By U.S. Government

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September 17, 2014

"Sexual Rights" Officially Recognized By U.S. Government

Women’s Rights Group Applauds Landmark Moment for Sexual and Reproductive Rights of Women and Girls Globally

WASHIGNTON, D.C. – In a landmark action this week, the United States government publicly acknowledged the importance of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and stated that it will now use the term “sexual rights”, drawing heavily from the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action adopted at the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing, China. The U.S. statement came on Tuesday, September 15 during the UN Women Executive Board meeting.

The Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE), a U.S.-based women's rights group that advocates for the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls globally, and other advocacy organizations, have been calling on the U.S. to adopt language around SRHR and sexual rights as adopted by other nations following the Beijing conference and the 1994 International Conference on Population Development (ICPD). Last year, CHANGE and ten organizations wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry urging “strong U.S. leadership in calling for the protection and promotion of all human rights including sexual rights.”

The language adoption comes on the heels of the 20th Anniversary of the Beijing conference and the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the post-2015 agenda. In response to the U.S. statement, CHANGE President Serra Sippel issued the following statement:

“This week represents 20 years of advocacy by U.S. and global groups to elevate sexual rights within U.S. foreign policy. CHANGE believes that sexual rights are human rights and this week’s statement is a major step forward in ensuring the sexual health and rights of women and girls globally.

“The shift in language from the U.S. means that rights relating to sexuality, sexual orientation, gender identity, and the right to choose if and when to marry – and to whom – will take a place of prominence in the discussion and crafting of global development policies moving forward. It also means that these policies will take into consideration that women and girls must have access to sexual and reproductive health services free from coercion, discrimination, and violence – a position that CHANGE has embraced since it was founded following ICPD.

“The new commitment by the U.S. government comes at a critical moment in international development, especially with the creation of a new stand-alone goal within the SDGs to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. There can be no gender equality without sexual and reproductive health and rights and that includes sexual rights.”

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